French Expression of the Day: N’importe quoi!

If you are ever involved in an argument in France, and the chances are you will be, you are going to need this expression.

French Expression of the Day: N'importe quoi!
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Why do I need to know this expression?

It's a great phrase to use if you are involved in an argument with someone in France. In fact if your language level is limited and you don't agree with the person you are arguing with you could just about get away with repeating n'importe quoi over and over  again. Until your opponent gives up and goes to bed.

But it also has other important meanings.

What does it mean?

Literally n'importe quoi means 'no matter what' and it's pronounced more like 'n'amporter kwah'.

But it has a few different uses that can be translated as 'anything', 'whatever', 'nonsense', 'rubbish' or even 'bullshit!'.

For example you could say je ferais n'importe quoi pour apprendre français, which would translate as 'I'd do anything to learn French'.

But when it comes to arguing or disagreeing with someone you would use n'importe quoi when you want to suggest what someone has said is a load of rubbish or nonsense.

For example if someone says Le Brexit est un bon idée you would be within you rights to say n'importe quoi or even tu dis n'importe quoi (you are talking nonsense) unless of course you think that Brexit is a good idea. 

It can also be translated in a few other ways with a similar meaning: Maintenant tu dis n'importe quoi – now you are just making things up or Evie tu dis n'importe quoi – 'Evie, you're just not making any sense'.

And if you really want to stress that what the other person has said is really bonkers you can say it slowly like n'im… port…e quoi!'

And you can also abbreviate it in speech and in text messages to just 'n'imp' in the right environment. Such as discussing last night's drunken antics you could say hier soir, j'ai fait n'imp, which could translate as 'last night I was a complete chump'.

It can also be used in response to what people have done as well as what they have said. For example you could say Theresa May vous faites n'importe quoi, meaning Theresa May 'you're doing it all wrong', or 'you're making a mess of it'. Unless you believe of course that she has played a blinder.

And you'll often hear parents saying something to their misbehaving children along the lines of arrete de faire n'importe quoi, which could translate as 'stop acting up' or 'stop messing around'.

Some other examples: 

1. Il mangera n'importe quoi – He will eat anything

2. Je peux ecrire sur n'importe quoi – I can write about anything

3. Les cochons peuvent voler –  Pigs can fly.

– N'importe quoi – Bullshit

4. Tu dis vraiment n'importe quoi – You are really talking crap

5 – Qu'est-ce que tu veux manger? – What do you want to eat?

– ça m'est egal, n'importe quoi – I'm easy, anything.


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French Expression of the Day: Faire son cinéma

We're probably all tempted to do this after an unexpected, last-minute train or flight cancellation

French Expression of the Day: Faire son cinéma

Why do I need to know faire son cinéma?

Because you might be running out of words to describe your child’s latest meltdown.

What does it mean?

Faire son cinéma – usually pronounced something like fair sohn sin-ay-mah – translates literally to ‘to make one’s theatre,’ but in practice the expression is not about opening your own movie theatre. It is actually used to describe overly dramatic or excessive behaviour, and the best colloquial translation in English would be ‘to make a scene.’

You will likely hear this phrase in French in a particular context – when a parent is chastising their misbehaving child who is likely throwing a temper tantrum. But the expression is not limited to overly tired three year olds – it can also be used to describe melodramatic adults, or people simply hamming it up, as we might say in English. 

The origins of the expression are what you might expect – as actors are known for their exaggerated gestures and simulations, around the mid-20th century, this idea of exaggerated performance became an expression used for anyone (not just those paid for it). There is another similar French expression: Faire tout un cinéma, which translates to ‘making a big deal of something,’ and though similar, it is more so focused on the idea of exaggerating to amuse an audience.

Use it like this

Tu dois arrêter de faire ton cinéma, on était d’accord pour quitter le parc il y a cinq minutes. – You need to stop making a scene, we agreed we would be leaving the park five minutes ago.

La femme à côté de moi a vraiment fait son cinéma. Elle était tellement énervée que son hamburger était froid qu’elle a crié sur le serveur. – The woman next to me really made a scene. She was so upset her burger was cold that she screamed at the server.